For a bona fide horror fan there is no greater feeling than sitting down to watch a movie you know little to nothing about and realising as it unfolds before your eyes that you have stumbled across something wonderful.
Horror movies, for me, personally, have only ever been as good as their villains. The films of the 70s and 80s were keyed into this fact. The 1970s gave us Krug and company in Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Michael Myers in Halloween and Pazuzu in The Exorcist. The 1980s dished up more iconic horror villains than you can shake a machete at. Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead and Chucky, just to name a few.
Sadly, things went a bit pear-shaped in the 90s. Sure, we had Candyman and the Djinn from The Wishmaster, but towards the end of the decade it was more a case of trying to work out which annoying school friend of the main character was behind all the killing. It became all about wading through 90 minutes of red herrings to find out if you had guessed accurately.
Things didn’t exactly pick up in the noughties either. With the exception maybe of Jigsaw and, erm, Death in the Final Destination films, the decade was awash with zombie movies of varying quality. Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake being the only real standouts in a sea of mediocrity.
Fast forward to 2016 and a little movie titled Terrifier gave us precisely what we had been craving for far too long. A horror villain to root for. A movie maniac that could bring something new and interesting to the table. An old-school slasher movie antagonist. 2016 introduced us to Art the Clown. This wasn’t the first appearance of Art on-screen. He had appeared previously in the anthology film, All Hallows Eve. On that occasion portrayed by Mike Giannelli.
What separates Art from more recent genre villains is personality, and personality isn’t something you expect from a character that doesn’t have a single line of dialogue in the movie. This is where the brilliance of actor, David Howard Thornton’s performance as Art shines through. It’s staggering how Art can convey funny yet incredibly creepy all at the same time. Thornton’s portrayal of the Killer Clown is solely physical. He doesn’t get to crack wise. He doesn’t have any deep, pretentious monologues about how and why he wants to kill you. His motives remain a mystery. It’s his mannerisms that carry the character and it’s a joy to watch. Mannerisms and a very sinister make-up job that is.
Terrifier really isn’t a film for anyone suffering from coulrophobia. I don’t suffer from it and even I would find Art unnerving.
With a sequel in production, there is plenty to look forward to for fans of the first movie. We were lucky enough to bag an interview with the man behind the greasepaint. Art, himself. David Howard Thornton.
For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! Well, I am probably best known for playing Art the Clown in the horror film “Terrifier” and the upcoming “Terrifier 2” that is currently filming here in NYC! Before that though, I was a stage and voice over actor in various productions ranging from 5 national tours with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical” as Grandpa Who and the Grinch understudy all the way through providing creature voices for animated shows like “The Bravest Knight” and “Super Wings”.
You took over as Art the Clown from Mike Giannelli. How did that come about and did you base any part of your performance on his or were you given free rein to make it your own?
I originally got the role through an audition notice posted online that was looking for a tall skinny male with clowning or physical comedy experience to play the role of Art. I had seen “All Hallows’s Eve” and was already familiar with Mike’s interpretation of the character and knew I was perfect to further evolve the role of Art, so I asked my reps to submit me. The rest is history!
As for how I developed Art, I used Mike’s performance as a base to build from and then added more to it. Unlike most silent killers that usually hide behind a mask, you see Art’s face at all times, so I wanted him to have a way of expressing more emotion and intent through his physicality. I grew up watching the great silent comedians ranging from Chaplin all the way to Mr. Bean, and wanted to put more of that into Art’s character since I thought that would add more personality to him and allow him to show a broader range of emotions etc. despite being unable to speak. I think this helps Art stand out from other slasher villains in a more unique way and makes him more interesting to watch.
Art comes across as the mime from hell. Do you have a background in that kind of performance or was it a case of learning on the job?
LOL! Well first off, he is not a mime. How dare you! Ha ha! He is a silent clown. Mimes do not use props, hence the difference. I do have a background in this type of performance though which is cultivated from decades of work in doing a lot of physical comedy in theater and learning from the greats that came before me. The one that really helped me hone my craft was the talented Stefan Karl, who is best known for playing Robbie Rotten on “Lazy Town”. I was Stefan’s understudy for 5 years on Grinch. Stefan was well trained in clowning and was a master at the art. He taught me a lot during my years with Grinch and helped me fine tune my skills. I put a lot of Stefan into Art. Sadly, he passed away from cancer last year, so I like to think he is living on through Art in a way.
Prior to starring in Terrifier, you were known for your voice work. How was it going from using your voice to act to portray a character that can only express himself physically?
It was definitely a challenge, but a fun one that I have always wanted to undertake. I do well over 200 character voices and have always relied on that skill set for the characters I have played. Once I find the voice of a character, I can fully develop them. That was different with Art. Art’s “voice” is instead his facial and body expressions. It’s been a blast developing that!
Art has the potential to become an iconic horror franchise character much like Freddy or Jason. Would you be happy if this was to happen, and would you be interested in portraying the character over a series of films?
Oh, yes! I would very much like that to happen! He’s such a fun and interesting character! It would be an honor!
If Terrifier was to become a franchise, is there a direction you would like to see the character go in?
I would like him to continue on the path we have already set for him and stay true to it. There is a fine line that we have to walk between believability and campiness. He needs to stay grounded in reality in a way, so we don’t need him going to space or anything like that.
Terrifier looks like a movie that would have been fun to make. Do you have any standout, on-set moments that you would like to share with us?
Many! Though I would say my favorite moment happened one night while I was waiting for Jenna to film a scene. There were two women having an argument outside of my window, so I went over to watch it happen out of boredom forgetting that I was in full makeup and covered in blood. One of them looked up and saw me, and I waved. They both screamed and took off running. About 15 minutes later, our production team came in and told me that there was someone outside that wanted to meet me but not to come out until they told me too. When I was given the ok, I came out and was greeted by about 15 of New Jersey’s finest in full riot gear. My butt puckered up and I let out a high pitched “Hi!”. There was a moment of silence...and then they all started laughing. They said that I was lucky that I did not come out first to greet them or I would have been shot on site looking how I looked. It was a fun night! LOL! That tradition continued on set this year for Terrifier 2 when cops were called again while we were doing a scene. They thought it was hilarious.
Is there anything you are able to tell us about Terrifier 2?
Oh, boy! There is SO much that I do want to tell you but can’t! It is going to be much bigger and better than Terrifier 1 though! We filmed an incredibly brutal but entertaining kill scene the other night that I think rivals the hacksaw scene in the first one. Y’all are going to love it! I will say that it is more narrative driven though and we are building up a worthy adversary for Art!
Have you always had an interest in horror? If so, where did that begin?
Not always. I was late to the game since my mom hated them. It was not until I saw Scream 2 in high school that I fell in love with the genre.
Horror conventions are fairly big business right now. Do you get the chance to attend any and how do you find them?
I’ve started attending several of them and love doing them! I have a great manager, Bob Catalano, that is helping me do that! I think it is a fantastic way to interact with the fans!
Is there anyone in the horror genre that you would like the opportunity to work with?
There are so many! Doing conventions, I have been able to meet many of the greats that came before me and build friendships with them, like Kane Hodder, Felissa Rose, Tamara Glynn, and Bill Moseley. Felissa and Tamara have small roles in Terrifier 2, so that has been great! I’d love to work with Kane and Bill in the future, as well as Robert Englund, Bruce Campbell, Mark Hamill, Doug Jones, etc etc etc. So many to name!
Outside of Terrifier, what do you have in the pipeline in the near future?
I have horror 2 films that I will be working on next year that I can’t talk about yet. They should be a lot of fun!
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Hopefully, a much younger and better looking, talented actor that we still have not discovered yet.
Thank you David for taking the time to chat with us. Terrifier 2 is out next year and personally we can't wait.
To add Terrifier to your collection, you can buy it here:
UK readers can find it here: